Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Ehud Barak’s Tangled Legacy

November 28, 2012 12:58 pm 0 comments

Ehud Barak (right) with US Army Col. Thomas Jordan in 1999. Photo: wiki commons.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak – heroic military commander, failed politician, and bane of Jewish settlers – has announced his intention to resign from public office after the January election. Having severed his roots in the Labor Party, and with his tiny Independence Party unlikely to win enough votes to return him to the Knesset, Barak chose to call it a career – maybe.

Renowned as Israel’s most decorated soldier, Barak achieved military distinction as head of the Special Forces unit Sayeret Matkal that conducted commando attacks against terrorists during the 1970s. In its most stunningly successful raid, leaders of the PLO and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were tracked down and killed in Beirut in retaliation for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. (The film “Munich” captured the heroic audacity of the mission.)

Barak’s subsequent service as military chief of staff proved to be his launching pad to politics in 1995, when he became Prime Minister Rabin’s Minister of Internal Affairs. Three months later, after Rabin’s assassination, he became Minister of Foreign Affairs, then leader of the Labor Party and, in 1999, he defeated incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu to become Prime Minister.

But Barak, like Rabin before him and his successor Ariel Sharon, demonstrated that military victories do not guarantee political success. Indeed, his brief term in office – the shortest of any Israeli prime minister – was a dismal failure. Ending Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, he opened the way for Hezbollah to become entrenched on its northern border, where it remains. Reiterating the standard left-wing trope that if Israel retained the territories that it won in the Six-Day War it would become either a bi-national or apartheid state, Barak chased peace negotiations with Yasir Arafat’s PLO.

Imagining that Palestinians were prepared for “a durable and lasting peace” with Israel, Barak participated in the Camp David summit fiasco, where Arafat rejected his astonishing offer to divide Jerusalem and relinquish 92% of biblical Judea and Samaria. One year later, after the eruption of the Second Intifada, Barak was resoundingly defeated by Ariel Sharon.

As Defense Minister (since 2007), Barak approved the destruction of Syria’s nuclear reactor, presided over Operation Cast Lead, and authorized the recent assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. But his evident animosity to settlers repeatedly turned Jews against Jews. He supported Netanyahu’s capitulation to President Obama with a ten-month settlement freeze, even urging a two-month extension to further appease the President. Under Israeli law the Defense Minister must sign permits for Jews to purchase property in Judea and Samaria. In an interview earlier this year he boasted: “Not a single new settlement has been built in the last three years since this government is in power.”

Barak’s unrelenting hostility to settlers, and his determination to override their legal rights of property ownership, was most evident in Hebron. He repeatedly stymied efforts to rebuild the ancient Jewish community that was brutally destroyed during the Arab pogrom of 1929. As Prime Minister he had refused to issue building permits that his predecessor had authorized. As Defense Minister, he twice mobilized the army and police to evict residents from apartments on land purchased by a Jew in 1807. Referring to Hebron Jews as “cancerous tumors,” he pledged to “uproot this evil from our midst.”

In 2008, months after Jewish families moved into a building purchased from a willing Palestinian seller, the Defense Minister fulfilled his promise. Despite a video of the transaction that showed the seller receiving and counting his money, a cassette recording of his confirmation of the sale to a friend, and affirmation of the legality of the purchase by police investigators, Barak remained adamant.

Convinced that the presence of Jews in Hebron represented “attempts by small groups of radicals to undermine the authority of the state,” he ordered hundreds of soldiers and border police to storm the building and evict its residents. Two months ago a Jerusalem court finally upheld the legality of the purchase and ordered the government to return the property to its rightful Jewish owners.

At the moment Ehud Barak’s illustrious career in military and public life seems to be nearing its end. But come January, once the election results are in, a call from Prime Minister Netanyahu to return to the Defense Ministry just might be irresistible. Israeli politics has more encores than a rock concert.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author, most recently, of Against the Grain: A Historian’s Journey (Quid Pro Books).

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Author of New Book on Connection Between Jews, Punk Rock Describes Bands Flinging Gefilte Fish, Bagels at Audience (INTERVIEW)

    Author of New Book on Connection Between Jews, Punk Rock Describes Bands Flinging Gefilte Fish, Bagels at Audience (INTERVIEW)

    Some punk rockers integrate their Jewish identity into their music through food, the author of a new book on the topic told The Algemeiner on Wednesday. Michael Croland, author of Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk, described the way different musicians express this connection. “One band is known for throwing gefilte fish in the mosh pit, and people at its concert slide around on it while dancing,” he recounted. “Another used to drink Manischewitz [sweet kosher] wine out of a shofar [the ram […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Scottish Soccer Club Manager Hails ‘Fantastic’ Jewish-State Visit After Victory Over Israeli Team (VIDEO)

    Scottish Soccer Club Manager Hails ‘Fantastic’ Jewish-State Visit After Victory Over Israeli Team (VIDEO)

    The manager of Scotland’s Celtic soccer club lauded Israel, after his team won a match against the Jewish state’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva on Tuesday night. Brendan Rodgers said at a post-match press conference: On behalf of the players, the people of Celtic and Scotland, Israel’s been fantastic for us. We came out here on Sunday, [and from] the hotel, the staff, we’ve been very, very warmly received. The atmosphere at the game was amazing and, obviously, one team has to lose, but you have a wonderful team here, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Second Jaffa Jazz Festival to Reunite International, Israeli Musicians

    Second Jaffa Jazz Festival to Reunite International, Israeli Musicians

    For the second time, Israel will host the Jaffa Jazz Festival, according to Broadwayworld.com. The festival will unite 43 Israeli musicians and eight international artists for a three-day event. The program will include a special performance by an ensemble of top jazz students studying at Belgium’s Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, the Belgrade Music Academy in Serbia, Israel’s Rimon School of Music and the jazz program of the Israel Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv. There will also be a jazz show for children led by Israeli saxophonist […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israel’s First NASCAR Driver Revved Up to Win

    Israel’s First NASCAR Driver Revved Up to Win

    JNS.org – As a young boy growing up in Ashdod, Israel, Alon Day got his first go-kart at age 9. By 15, he was racing them. Less than a decade later, Day has become the first Israeli professional race car driver on the NASCAR circuit. He made history by competing in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 13. “Driving a race car is not like any other sport,” Day told JNS.org. “You are actually almost flying […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Writer of Popular Kids Series to Premiere Autobiographical Solo Show ‘Not That Jewish’

    Writer of Popular Kids Series to Premiere Autobiographical Solo Show ‘Not That Jewish’

    The writer of a popular children’s television series will premiere an off-Broadway solo show called “Not That Jewish,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Written and performed by Monica Piper — the Emmy Award-winning showrunner of Nickelodeon’s “Rugrats” — the show is described as “the autobiographical telling of a Jew…’ish’ girl’s life.” “Not That Jewish” explores Piper’s Bronx upbringing in a show-business family, her comedy-club debut and her “almost” night with former Yankees legend Mickey Mantle. “Audiences can expect to leave laughed-out, a little teary-eyed and […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Scottish Soccer Team Will Fly to Israel on Private Jet Used by Madonna

    Scottish Soccer Team Will Fly to Israel on Private Jet Used by Madonna

    Scotland’s Celtic soccer club will fly to Israel with the same private jet Madonna used while on tour, The Scotsman reported on Monday. According to the report, the team is heading for the Jewish state to compete against Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva on Tuesday night, and will be transported in the customized, luxurious Boeing 757-200 that the pop icon used in New Zealand for her six-month Rebel Heart tour, which wrapped up in March. The plane is on loan from Greece-based GainJet Aviation and can accommodate 62 passengers. The […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Revealed: Actor Jonah Hill Officiated at Wedding of Fellow Jewish Star, Singer Adam Levine

    Revealed: Actor Jonah Hill Officiated at Wedding of Fellow Jewish Star, Singer Adam Levine

    Jewish actor Jonah Hill revealed on Wednesday morning that he had officiated the wedding of good friend and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. The “War Dogs” actor, 32, was a guest on Sirius XM’s The Howard Stern Show when the conversation turned to Levine’s July 2014 wedding to Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo. Hill said that after he was asked to officiate the nuptials, he started getting worried about the type of speech he was going to deliver. “I’m writing all these things, and then I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Music Jewish Indie Rocker Dedicates New ‘Refugee’ Track to Grandfather Who Fled Nazi Persecution

    Jewish Indie Rocker Dedicates New ‘Refugee’ Track to Grandfather Who Fled Nazi Persecution

    Jewish indie singer Ezra Furman released a song on Wednesday that he said was dedicated to his grandfather, who escaped Nazi persecution. Furman told the website Consequence of Sound that the new track, called “The Refugee,” is his “first song entirely concerned with my Jewish background and present, a song dedicated to my grandfather who fled the Nazis, as well as to all of the refugees desperate for a home today.” He added, “May all the wanderers find the homes they seek, and […]

    Read more →